So you want to make a name for yourself? You want your business to achieve meteoric growth? You want to differentiate yourself in a big way from your competition? Then you probably stand to learn a thing or (three) from a real estate company whose hustle is raising the bar for how to succeed in today's increasingly niche-oriented and bespoke business landscape.
Maybe you've already heard of Welfont, named by Inc. in 2018 as the fastest growing real estate brokerage in the country. Inside of three years, Welfont grew at an astounding 11,359%, three-year growth rate.
How did Welfont crush the growth rates of its competitors and differentiate itself as one of the country's premier brokerage firms? It took three approaches that all had something in common: a nose for opportunity in unlikely places.
1. An ability to see a liability as a niche market.
Welfont went after the very clients that most brokerages didn't want to touch and that lenders routinely denied financing: cash-strapped nonprofits who lacked real estate knowledge and the sophistication to manage commercial assets.
While brokerages saw these clients as liabilities, Welfont recognized them as the low-hanging fruit of a huge, underserved, brimming-with-potential niche market. When no one else in the industry saw the value of these clients, Welfont took a different perspective and cashed in on the $3 trillion in annual revenue that the 1.5 million US-based nonprofits represent.
Too many businesses are so dogged in their pursuit of the "perfect" customer that they miss the forest for the trees and overlook the opportunities right under their noses.
As Welfont makes clear, sometimes the glass that looks "half empty" to almost every other company in your industry is more than full for those with the vision to see it. If your business is dismissing whole market segments out of hand, it might be time to take a cue from Welfont and see what leverageable insights a new perspective may yield.
2. A disruptive business model that said yes when everyone else said no.
Though real estate acquisition is exceptionally valuable to perpetually fund-seeking nonprofits, it has traditionally come with considerable risk due to the lack of resources needed to manage the financial responsibilities of ownership. Welfont saw a way to close this enormous gap and built a business model based on providing the resources that nonprofits needed to safely acquire property they could use for organizational purposes or could liquidate to fund themselves.
Not only did Welfont create a successful business model that secured 100 percent financing on under-utilized and underperforming properties (the very properties most lenders literally didn't want to bank on), but it eschewed traditional specialization. In other words, because Welfont discovered that nonprofits had an appetite for almost any kind of property, they now broker a full range of real estate, including commercial, retail, multi-family, and so forth.
Here we see again how Welfont found a way to say yes when others said no and used this to engineer a truly disruptive business model. While many in the real estate industry thought Welfont's business model was a recipe for failure if not outright foolish or even crazy (like a fox, some would now say), Welfont knew an open secret: for every "no" that an industry gives a market segment, opportunity only grows. When you have an entire industry saying "no" to a market segment, it represents the ultimate opportunity to create a business model that can reap the ripe harvest of "yes."
3. Turnkey services for non-traditional clients and a pay-per-performance approach.
Nonprofits have been traditionally thought of as among the least desirables of buyers and therefore very few services have been extended to them. But Welfont once again turned the industry thinking on its head and rolled out turnkey corporate services (underwriting, asset management, finance services, and so on) for this vastly underserved demographic.
Welfont invests extensive time and money in locating ideal properties for its clients and even assumes the expenses incurred on deals that don't close. What's more, Welfont's compensation is ultimately tied to its performance: Welfont doesn't get paid unless clients make money, which also means Welfont only partners with clients it can honestly serve and achieve win-win solutions with.
Welfont's customized services and pay-for-performance approach for traditionally undervalued and underserved clients is not just a case of innovative out-of-the-box thinking. Maybe even more importantly, it's a lesson in dedication to the ethical foundation upon which companies must stand in order to justify their existence.
The lessons of Welfont's meteoric rise teach us how "half-empty" glasses can be the most full, how industry-wide "no's" can lead to "yes's" that drive disruptive innovation, and how treating traditionally "second class citizens" as equal partners in mutual value creation is not only good business but inspirational ethos. By taking these lessons to heart we can follow in the footsteps of greatness while breaking new ground and forging our own paths to industry leadership.